Onboarding Best Practices

Here’s a question: what do you do when a new member comes to a brigade meeting?

Things I’d love to hear opinions on:

  • Explicit night for new members vs whenever
  • How much do you explain detailed procedures vs letting them learn?
  • How successful do you feel you are in orienting them and getting them productive?

At Code for Fort Collins, we have a monthly new member night. People still show up fresh at other meetings, but it’s been a helpful way to constrain that (so we can be a little more productive other meetings). We basically have a ~15 minute summary presentation of what we do that we give them. It answers questions like:

  • What’s CFA? What’s CFFC?
  • Who are the core people you should know?
  • What projects have we done? Are we working on?
  • How you can be involved.

We experimented with making people do a PR on Github (they’d submitted a personal profile markdown file to our Jekyll site), but ended up feeling like it often felt to both them and us like not-useful busy work. The impulse – get some code in ASAP – is one I still feel though.

We definitely could do a better job getting people to return after their first night. I doubt that’s unique across brigades, but I’d love to hear if someone is succeeding in that.

Code for Boston does a 30 minute orientation for new people that covers what Code for America is (most people show-up via Meetup and do not know Code for America), what Code for Boston is, and what kinds of events we hold, and how to participate in projects. We then review the available projects and offer to bring people to them. People often still do not know what project they want to be in and we have yet to figure that out. Sometimes we have a workshop for them to participate in instead of the projects if they choose on their first night.

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Thanks for the reply. When you do a workshop, what is it? It is like “Making a PR on a Jekyll site” as a separate event, a guided step-by-step process of doing that, or it’s kind of like a flow of “please go to this page and follow its directions.” We were doing the last one as I described above, and I didn’t think it fostered much interpersonal connection or engagement from the new folks.

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Code for Baltimore was working on an idea I really liked for a while, “mini hack challenges”: https://github.com/CodeForBaltimore/minihackchallenges

Good material for the first-timers that profess they’ve shown up to learn how to code. I had doped to see the lessons in it grow up to the point of scraping some data from a website into a CSV, importing the CSV into a database, and showing it in a mapped/searchable react UI.

Looks like it died out though when their leadership turned over